The Bay of Bengal: Next theatre for strategic power play in Asia

Abstract

This paper explores the factors behind the increasing strategic significance of the Bay of Bengal in the current geopolitical context.The study starts by highlighting the factors contributing to the rising importance of the littoral region from a general economic, geopolitical and energy perspective. It then analyses the specific objectives and strategic aspirations of the major powers involved in the Bay, and how those may turn the area into a hub of converging, and/or conflicting interests. The focus is then shifted toward the smaller littoral nations and their individual relations with the major players. Finally, challenges to stability in the region are discussed, and a cooperative approach is suggested for the context of the Bay. The paper argues that the strategic importance of the Bay will considerably increase in the coming years. As the nations involved are major and rising powers, the power play in the area will inevitably reshape the dynamics of the region. The interests that are at stake are also of crucial importance to the countries involved; hence, their protection will also demand a rapid militarization of the littoral. Most of these countries are now redirecting their focus from land to sea, which is adding a whole new dimension to the importance of the Bay. However, this paper argues that cooperation and competition is in all the nations’ best interest, as any conflict in the Bay region could bring in political, economic and energy insecurity affecting all the concerned countries. Another dimension this paper explores is the implication of this competition on smaller nations and their role in the larger schemes of the major powers.In order to lay out an exhaustive and holistic view, historical, economic, military, geopolitical and social factors have been taken into account in this research.

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